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As Earth Day Approaches, Study Shows Pork Producers Reducing Carbon Footprint

The world will celebrate Earth Day on Monday (April 22). National Pork Board President Conley Nelson says Earth Day is more than a single day or week of heightened awareness to pork producers. He says it's an engrained part of how they care for their animals, the environment and their communities as they provide healthy pork products for consumers.

And research shows America's pork producers have made huge improvements in environmental management over the last 50 years. According to the study - "A 50-Year Comparison of the Carbon Footprint and Resource Use of the U.S. Swine Herd: 1959-2009" - modern pork production methods have led to a 35-percent decrease in the carbon footprint, a 41-percent reduction in water usage and a 78-percent drop in land needed to produce a pound of pork compared with a 1959 baseline.

Nelson is proud of the industry's accomplishments - but says today's competitive market demands producers do even more to improve pork production. He says that's why pork producers are working together to fund new environmental research that will help them build on that progress made over the past 50 years.

Dr. Garth Boyd is the environmental researcher who led the Checkoff-funded study. He says the study underscores just how much improvement farmers have made over the past half century. He says the pork industry has been very successful in significantly reducing its environmental impact and its use of natural resources by nearly 50-percent across the board per pound of pork produced.

Boyd says that's quite an accomplishment. Several on-farm practices played a role in improving the pork industry's overall environmental sustainability. Boyd says they were primarily related to the continuous improvements made over the years in how farmers care for their animals through better nutrition, health and overall management - as well as through improvements in crop production.

One example in the report shows that feed efficiency of pigs has improved 33-percent - which means that animals consume less feed for every pound of meat produced. This is a major factor that reduces both the amount of land required for growing grain and the amount of manure produced by pigs.

The National Pork Board has defined four pillars of environmental sustainability - carbon footprint, water footprint, air footprint and land footprint. According to Nelson - the Pork Checkoff is making inroads into all of these areas with farmer-directed research and the creation of on-farm tools.

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